Upstate News

February 23, 2010
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate has new policy for dealing with pharmaceutical and biotech companies

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Upstate Medical University has introduced a new policy that establishes expectations of how university employees and students relate to pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology industries.

The policy, officially called the Policy on Relations with the Pharmaceutical, Medical Device and Biotechnology Industries, covers almost all aspects of industry relations with the university from purchasing decisions and speaking engagements to continuing medical education and research sponsorship.

In a letter to the university community, Upstate’s president, David R. Smith, M.D., said the new policy “will enable the university to maintain institutional and professional integrity while carrying out its mission of education, research and patient care.”

Under the new policy, Gregory L. Eastwood, M.D., a professor of bioethics and humanities, will serve as Upstate’s Conflict of Interest Officer. Eastwood said the policy builds on current laws and policies governing public employees, but provides even greater transparency in key areas of the university’s operations.

One example of the policy’s move toward greater transparency is the requirement that all individuals who are teaching at the university must disclose to their students at the beginning of a course or session of any relations they have with the pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology industries.

By student standards, Upstate does well when it comes to conflict of interest policies with pharmaceutical companies. The American Medical Student Association gave Upstate a B on its 2009 PharmFree Scorecard.

Under the policy, the dispensing of free drug samples may be given only to individuals who meet one of the following conditions: are medical indigent; have no prescription coverage for extraordinarily expensive agents; temporarily do not have access to other pharmacy services; or will use the drug only for one week or less to see if it desired effect.

Industry representatives coming to campus with notepads and pens will have to look elsewhere for recipients of their free giveaways. The new policy restricts Upstate employees and students from accepting these gifts, and others, including stethoscopes, textbooks, food, conference fees or any other hospitality. Also, the policy prohibits researchers from taking gifts from research sponsors and puts tighter controls on what industry can support at continuing education events.

The policy was developed by a group of faculty, staff, and students across Upstate Medical University under the direction of Kathy Faber-Langendoen, M.D., the Medical Alumni Endowed Professor of Bioethics and founder and director of Upstate’s Center for Bioethics and Humanities. Steven R. Goodman, Ph.D., vice president for research, was a key contributor to the policy.

A draft was made available to the university community for comment, and Eastwood made presentations on the new policy to key university constituencies, including the university’s Binghamton Campus to get input that eventually molded the final document.

“This policy attempts to prevent any conflict from getting between the people of Upstate and their patients, their research, and their students,” Eastwood said. “We are seeking to ensure integrity in everything we do.”

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